Venezuela, Bolivia offer asylum to Edward Snowden

Nicaragua has also indicated that it may offer asylum

The presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia have offered to give asylum to Edward Snowden, the former contractor of the National Security Agency who leaked documents about the agency's surveillance programs.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro said in a televised speech on Friday that his country would give Snowden "humanitarian asylum." Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, said his country had also decided to grant Snowden asylum, in protest against four European countries restricting the passage of his plane as he was returning to Bolivia from Moscow last week.

Neighboring Nicaragua has also said it is considering offering Snowden asylum if circumstances permit, according to reports.

But there are questions as to how Snowden will get to any of these countries in Latin America, after the plane carrying Morales was rerouted to Austria on suspicion that it was carrying the former NSA contractor. The European countries had apparently been informed that Snowden was on board.

Cuba's President Raul Castro raised the possibility on Sunday that his country rather than Europe could be used as a stopover by Snowden on his way to Bolivia or Venezuela after he said in a speech that he supported Bolivia, Venezuela and other countries in the region who had decided to grant asylum "to those persecuted for their ideals or their struggles for democratic rights."

But WikiLeaks said in a message on Twitter that if Castro's solidarity on *Snowden is serious, Cuba would publically offer him asylum.

The whistle-blower site, which has handled Snowden's other asylum requests, said on Friday that asylum requests have been sent to six other countries, but their names were being withheld "due to attempted U.S. interference."

Earlier in the week it said that applications for asylum or asylum assistance were submitted on behalf of Snowden to about 20 countries including Venezuela and Nicaragua through an official at the Russian consulate at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. Snowden is thought to be in the transit facility of the airport, unable to enter Russia after the U.S. revoked his passport.

The American government has filed charges against Snowden in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia for theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.

A bill introduced Thursday by members of the Icelandic Parliament seeks to grant Icelandic citizenship to Snowden, but it won't be discussed until September after the house refused to take it up on the last day of the summer session of the Parliament.

"I have to announce that Snowden will not be getting any form of shelter in Iceland because the current government doesn't even have enough spine for the parliament to discuss Snowden's request," wrote Birgitta JA3nsdA3ttir, member of the Icelandic Parliament for the Pirate Party, in a blog post on Friday.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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